September 15, 2023
As the momentum for digital twin adoption picks up, so does the search for a common language for 3D data exchange that will serve the purposes of digital twin operators. For NVIDIA, that’s OpenUSD, derived from the open-standard Universal Scene Description (USD) language developed by the animation giant Pixar.
In his recent keynote at SIGGRAPH 2023 (Aug 6-10, Los Angeles, California), NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang said, “OpenUSD is a very big thing—a game changer … a framework, a universal interchange for creating 3D worlds, for describing, for compositing, for simulation, for collaborating on 3D projects. OpenUSD is going to bring together the world onto one standard 3D interchange. It has the opportunity to do for the world and for computing what HTML did for the 2D Web.”
The success of a format hinges on how many industry leaders embrace it. In that sense, OpenUSD is off to a good start. The Alliance of OpenUSD (AOUSD), a member-supported nonprofit dedicated to promoting the format, has now come online, with NVIDIA, Pixar, Autodesk, Adobe, and Apple as founding members.
“Whether you’re building CG worlds or digital twins or looking ahead to the 3D web, content creators need a cohesive way to collaborate and share data across tools, services, and platforms,” said Gordon Bradley, Fellow, Media & Entertainment, Autodesk. “Autodesk is excited to support the Alliance for OpenUSD as it drives 3D interoperability for visual effects, animation, and beyond, and supports our vision to help customers design and make a better world.”
An open-source USD plug-in for Autodesk Maya has been available since 2019 serving the media and entertainment industries. For Autodesk 3ds Max users, the company offers an extension called USD for Autodesk 3ds Max.
The Standard for NVIDIA Omniverse
One of the biggest decisions confronting the digital twin operators is, which platform to use to host their industrial twins. Many cloud computing service providers will likely be offering their own metaverses for the purpose. NVIDIA’s platform is Omniverse™, an interactive environment with built-in physics. If that’s your choice, OpenUSD will be the standard 3D format. NVIDIA has now launched the OpenUSD Developer Program, offering curated assets, SDKs, and resources. The program is free to join.
Manufacturing, Civil Engineering, and Media and Entertainment
In his blog post introducing the AOUSD, Guy Martin, Director of Open Source and Standards at NVIDIA, said, “OpenUSD is the foundation of NVIDIA Omniverse, a development platform for connecting and building 3D tools and applications. Omniverse is helping companies like Heavy.AI, Kroger, and Siemens build and test physically accurate simulations of factories, retail locations, skyscrapers, sports cars, and more.”
In his SIGGRAPH keynote, Huang also said, “We've extended USD with real-time physics and offline physics. We added CAD to USD to connect USD to a whole new industry. We made it possible for USD to understand geospatial data, to recognize the curvature of the earth.”
Adding support of geospatial data, such as the terrain’s contour and the precise location on earth, is an important step to advance the use of the format in fields like civil engineering and architecture. Whereas 3D models of products, such as engines and automobiles, are not fixed to a specific location, digital twins of facilities and factories represent sites in real-world locations. Thus, USD’s ability to represent such twins faithfully not just in geometry but in their real-world locations is a welcomed development.
Manufacturing titan Siemens has partnered with NVIDIA to build digital twins, an agreement made public in April at the HANNOVER MESSE trade show. As part of the announcement, the two companies demonstrated a Omniverse-hosted digital twin of the FREYR Battery factory in Norway. The two companies aim to bring together Siemens Xcelerator’s industrial ecosystem and NVIDIA Omniverse’s AI-enabled real time virtual world engine.
OpenUSD has also found support from Epic Games, known for its Unreal Game Engine. “Epic Games recognizes the significance of USD in establishing standards for 3D content, virtual worlds, and the open metaverse. Pixar has demonstrated exceptional leadership in the open-source community over the last decade, and we are excited to witness the formation of the Alliance for OpenUSD, which will propel the technology to new levels of standardization,” said Marc Petit, VP Unreal Engine Ecosystem, Epic Games, in a release on the AOUSD website.
Game engines play a crucial role in converting CAD models to Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) applications. Their technology is expected to facilitate the digital twin experience.
Bob Pette, NVIDIA’s VP/GM of Enterprise Visualization, said, “One of the first goals of the alliance is to try to nail down the specs so that we can recruit more members from the CAD space.”
As more CAD software makers join the AOUSD, they’re expected to contribute different components to make data exchange easier, and to reshape the format to support industrial digital twins.